In both , Dillard perhaps raises more questions than she answers, or at least so it seems to those critics who want her to tie up all the loose ends satisfactorily.
However, loose ends are precisely what interest Dillard; the world as she sees it offers even the most practiced observer more loose ends than easy answers.
All of Dillard’s writing displays this almost photographic evocation of place, a skill that has prompted critics to label her a naturalist.
Dillard does not agree; for her, the natural world provides the only avenue by which to contemplate the ultimate, the absolute, the divine.
Nature provides metaphors that describe human agonies and activities; nature, for Dillard, is the only place where she can catch glimpses of an otherwise silent and invisible God.
Surprisingly to some people, Dillard does not think of herself as an environmentalist or as a champion of wilderness preservation; rather, she sees herself as someone for whom the world is her greatest subject because it allows her to consider those questions she sees as being most vital.
In fact, those readers and critics who view her as an untutored Appalachian local who both rhapsodizes about and is horrified by the natural world of rural Virginia greatly misjudge their subject.
That Dillard can make her readers share in such small and private activities as seeking out praying mantis egg cases or sitting quietly trying not to scare a muskrat attests to both her powers of observation and her skill at descriptive narration.
Because she believes that it is a writer’s goal to bring enlightenment, give clarification, search out answers, and provide inspiration, her writing probes the nature of being and the meaning of meaning.
She looks to nature—to the concrete world—for examples of courage and inspiration, and sometimes her search is a painful one, for wherever she turns she confronts the hard realities of living in an eat-or-be-eaten world, a place where things are born only to die and where destruction seems to be waiting around the next corner.